Advanced Seed Treatment Tech Top Of Mind
The NOVO system is ready to move into its next phase for the ag retail market.
Just as the recent explosion in sprayer innovation has been chronicled in the pages of CropLife IRON and at farm shows across the country like Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) and Farm Progress Show, the seed treatment market has followed suit. With automated seed treating systems that bring precision ag-like accuracy to the application of seed treatments, new all-in-one seed treatment products and breakthrough performance polymers and seed coatings that drive efficiency from the retailer’s treater to the grower’s planter, this industry is literally bursting at the seams with new and exciting offerings.
New App Systems
Once upon a time, according to business development manager Jeff Ochampaugh of Agrilead Inc., Russell, KS, the job of treating seed was dreaded by employees at most ag retailers. “From the standpoint of actually treating seed — and this is changing now — traditionally whoever does that job drew the short straw. Now, all of a sudden it’s a great job with NOVO, and the guy (or lady) that does it is enjoying it.”
There’s a tangible reason for that change of heart. New high-tech treating systems, marketed both for the smaller, localized retailer as well as the larger retailer operating expansive regional seed hubs, are offering operators enhanced automation, removing human error and making employees and management’s lives a bit easier.
Agrilead’s NOVO Seed Care Prescription Management System, now in the process of transitioning from its early commercialization stage into what Ochampaugh termed its “full commercial launch” is one example of an automated treating system for smaller to mid-size retailers.
Ochampaugh describes NOVO as an automated prescription system. Products, or ingredients as he calls them, are plugged into NOVO from industry standard drum pumps, to be combined into a prescription treatment slurry.
“The operator then steps up to the NOVO touch screen, answers some basic questions like what prescription they’re going to use, what’s the size of the seed, and the machine automatically mixes, measures and creates the treatment slurry and then transfers it to the treater, and it’s off and ready to go,” says Ochampaugh.
Several challenges the market currently faces can be alleviated through the NOVO system, according to Ochampaugh. One of those challenges is the physical handling of the treatment products and worker safety, which in today’s crop protection world of prescription usually means combining a multitude of different products at various rates depending on many localized factors. Another is seed size variations, particularly when treating soybeans.
“Before we were planting so many pounds of seed per acre, where now we have seeding systems that can measure how many individual seeds we plant per acre, and this makes a big difference where we’re dealing with high value seed and concentrated seed care inputs,” says Ochampaugh. “For example, if I take 100 pounds of a seed that has 2,400 seeds per pound, and I take 100 pounds of seed that has 3,600 seeds per pound, and I treat them both with the same fluid ounces of product per 100 pounds, I’ve just dramatically dosed differently on a per-seed basis.
Traceability Talk Hits Fervor
The traceability movement in food, commonly referred to as the Farm-To-Plate initiative, is all the rage among both foodies and traditional consumers these days. Folks want to know exactly where that corncob on their plate came from and what inputs were used in its production. Naturally, regulatory organizations are being looked at as next to get in on the act, and it won’t be much longer until the seed industry faces the daunting task of linking every single individual seed to what seed treatment products were used in the treatment process.
Retailers should probably keep this fact in mind going forward, as increased regulation typically translates into an increase in cost-of-business. That’s where these advanced seed treatment application systems come in.
“We are currently developing a feature that, when seed treatment products are used and connected with the system, takes a whole bunch of information from the various products and links it directly with the seed that’s going to be planted,” says Jeff Ochampaugh of Agrilead Inc. “Today in seed treatment it’s rare that a retailer can identify ‘Ok, this seed was treated with CruiserMaxx and this was the lot number of that CruiserMaxx.’ We see NOVO as being the opportunity to take that next step forward in traceability.”
On Demand also plans to offer users advanced traceability capabilities in the near future. “With On Demand, when a product comes in its barcoded, and then that barcode is attached to where it goes in the system,” says Brad May, strategic business lead for Bayer CropScience’s SeedGrowth Group. “In the future, we’re going to be looking at things like first-in, first-out with the barcoding.”
“NOVO now executes a method, which is patent pending by the way, known as Size Index Rate Adjustment (SIRA), which, when using products labeled with per-seed application rates, makes the slurry based upon the size of the seed and provides the operator with a new application rate so that the rate on a per-seed basis is exactly the same for all seed sizes.”
Another new NOVO feature, Sequential Mini-Batch Operation (SMBO), reportedly reduces downtime for operators. “With the SMBO feature, the NOVO makes its first mini-batch and pumps it over to the application tank and off they go,” says Ochampaugh. “Their treating process can begin right then, which we refer to as a ‘ready-to-treat interval’. So we can reduce that ready-to-treat interval, we don’t have to wait for that entire 50 gallons to be made, we still have the benefits of a homogenous treatment slurry, and yet we start to treat as soon as that first small batch is ready and the NOVO continues to operate as the treating goes on.”
Other ways NOVO can deliver improved efficiency for retail operations includes traceability (see sidebar), as NOVO hopes to soon be able to link all products used on a specific job directly to the seed, helping retailers manage traceability requirements that are becoming more common. Additionally, the system also includes hand-mix capabilities, enhanced reporting functions for streamlining billing and inventory and universal compatibility with any brand of slurry-based seed treatment products.
“NOVO was designed very retailer-focused from the ground up,” says Ochampaugh.
Bayer CropScience’s On Demand System is another automated application solution making waves in retail seed care, according to Brad May, strategic business lead for Bayer’s SeedGrowth Group. “On Demand is an application system that attaches to a continuous flow treater and offers the most innovative, interactive, accurate and easy-to-use system for retailers. It’s got a touch screen and you just touch the screen, select your ingredients and the system makes the recipes. It’s a state-of-the-art system.”
Like NOVO, On Demand also drives efficiency in seed treatment. “We’ve all seen the semis sitting along the road, waiting to pick up treated seed,” says May. “This system pretty much eliminates that wait time and it’s a very simple tool, kind of like your iPhone, that just makes your life easier.”
Adds Ethan Luth, Bayer CropScience product manager: “There’s no product exposure, there’s no risk of miss-application because this system is calibrated very accurately, so you eliminate the opportunity for human error in the mixing system and, as a retailer, you can be certain that your inventories will come out right, and the grower can be certain that he’s getting what he’s paying for, so everybody benefits.”